First off, I’d just like to state that I generally avoid packet sauces and box meals because they’re pretty boring, but with a bit of creativity, they can be made pretty awesome.
I receive lots of recipes via email and sometimes use them for inspiration. One of the mails I recieve regularly is from Knorr’s What’s For Dinner. For those of you who would like to try awesome meals, but lack the creativity or skills, I would highly recommend subscibing to their newsletter. They send you daily recipes to try, as well as a weekly meal planner so you can do your shopping in advance, which can save you a bit of money.
Last night I thought I would try one of the recipes that I had received the night before, Thai Chicken Cous Cous. I was quite keen to try this one because my fiance had recently mentioned wanting to try make a Thai Green Chicken Curry, as well as wanting some Cous Cous.
Besides being easy, this meal was actually quite affordable and healthy. I went through everything and estimated all the costs, especially for the oil and stock since I already had some in the kitchen:
- Chicken – R22
- Spinach R4 (R12 for 300g bag)
- Onion – 80c
- Milk – R2 (R16 for 2 litres)
- Knorr Thai Green Chicken Curry Sauce – R7
- Cous Cous – R5 (R22 for box)
- Almonds – R5 (R16 for 100g)
- Everything else – +/-R4 (estimated)
Total: R50 (about $7 or £4)
I love cooking. In fact, I think the fun part of food is in the preparation and getting your hands dirty. My dad inspired me to cook. He used to cook all the time for us, and was really good at it. He would always be trying new things and most of the time would come up with really awesome stuff. I am kind of the same in that regard, but I think I get a bit too experimental at times. Never while cooking for other people, but when it’s for me only I tend to be a bit more adventurous. That’s not to say I don’t experiment while cooking for other people, but not as much; in fact for my first date with my girlfriend I tried Oysters Rockefeller for the first time. Turns out they’re way better the regular raw way with a vinaigrette, but it was something I had to try…
For a while before I met my girlfriend, I had almost lost interest in cooking. You tend to be less creative when it’s just you. Now I try all sorts of things and want to do even more. Luckily we have similar tastes, and she puts me to shame with her cooking skills as well sometimes, so it definitely keeps me on my toes. A few times we have made a good team while cooking.
Anyway, once in a while I come up something worthwhile. Here are a few of my better creations, although I should warn you, when cooking I hate measuring stuff if I don’t have to, so I tend use handfuls, etc as measurements. I also cook according to the way it tastes. If a recipe says 200g and I think it needs more, I add it. If I make a stuff up, I try rectify it by adding things to get the taste right. Cooking is all about taste. If it looks good, but tastes crap, what’s the point? I taste constantly while cooking so the end result is normally just as I want it to be.
The first one is a recent experiment. I made this just a little while ago and was delicious. I am used to Mussels in a creamy sauce of sorts, so this was a pleasant change.
- About 500g cleaned and debearded mussels in whole shell
- 1 large loaf of crusty bread (french loaf, etc)
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 large handful coarsely chopped herbs
- 3 generous tablespoons of butter
Note: With regards to the herbs, I used basil & thyme, although parsley and thyme may be a safer bet. While looking at existing recipes for inspiration, there are plenty of different herbs recommended, so it is really up to you.
- In a pot large enough to hold your mussels, over medium to high heat, add the wine, 2 tablespoons of the butter, herbs, garlic & onion.
- Heat until the butter has melted and the mixture begins to boil, then lower heat to medium-low.
- Drain any excess liquid from the mussels and place them in the pot. Cover and steam them until ready (about 3-5 minutes) being careful not to overcook them.
- Remove them from the pot and place in bowls ready to serve. Now strain the remaining liquid from the pot, add the remaining butter and heat until the butter has melted.
- Pour this over the mussels and serve with the bread and a nice fresh salad and a crisp glass of the white wine.
Fresh Ciabatta with Grilled Chicken Breast
- Any ciabatta bread or rolls
- Chicken breasts marinated in choice of marinade (sweet and sour is good)
- Onion marmalade (see below)
- Fresh cherry tomatoes
- Fresh rocket
- Feta Cheese
- Put the chicken breasts in a marinade while making the onion marmalade. I made a marinade which included some mustard, honey & some Cajun spice, but the choices are limitless.
- For the onion marmalade, it is best to make it in larger quantities and keep in the fridge. It makes a great addition to any stew or pasta or just served as a side. Put about 8 medium sliced onions in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir infrequently, until the onions are dry and almost sticking to the pan.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil and a large pinch of salt and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally,until the onions are done as you like them, adding some oil to keep them from sticking without getting greasy. Cook it to suit your preferences. 10-15 minutes for a more bitter taste, up to 40 minutes for a browner sweeter onion marmalade.
- In the meantime, prepare the bacon and grill the chicken breasts. Prepare the tomatoes (sliced raw or grilled) & the rocket and feta cheese. Cut the breasts into large slices once cooked.
- To prepare the final meal, spread some dijon mustard on the ciabatta (slices or rolls halved) and put a large dollop of the onion marmalade. Exactly how much is a personal choice…
- Place a generous portion of bacon & chicken on top of that and finish with the tomato, feta & rocket.
Four Cheese Taglietelle with Chilli Fried Shrimp
- 250-500g Shrimp (personal choice)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 finely chopped Chillis
- Olive oil
- 1 cup Cream
- 1 cup of 4 various Cheeses, finely grated
- (I used Mozarella, Cheddar, Parmesan & Danish Regato)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the taglietelle and cook until al dente
- In the meantime, prepare the cheese
- On a very hot pan, fry the shrimps with the garlic and chilli and once done set aside
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pot on the stove.
- Add the cream and 4 cups of cheese and mix until the sauce has thickened (+/-3 mins)
- Serve the pasta and top with the shrimp